Introduction: Achille Le Grand (a Lamp Made From Fire Extinguishers)

As some of you already know, I love turning objects into something they are not. With me, a screwdriver becomes a fork, a basketball becomes a bag, a jar becomes a lemon juicer, a jerrycan becomes a speaker, old candies are turned into cool jewellery and a paint brush evolves into an iPad stylus.

Henry Sullivan’s «form follows function» seems to be a little bit more adjustable with me.

A few months ago, I was invited to participate in an Upcycling event organized in Paris by a design student from ENSCI les Ateliers, Axel Delbrayère and a few students from l’ESCP. The two days workshop was called «Lounge Share» and the concept was pretty awesome :

The team of students had spend weeks collecting material from trash all over Paris. What we had to do was simple : Turn this pile of junk into lamps, chairs, tables and other objects that could be used in a lounge space.

The whole process was documented and even filmed by Alexandre Kournswky, an other ENSCI student.

I had the chance to lead an enthusiastic small team composed of two smart girls (Sarah Khoubbaz and Rim Besbes).

In the first hours of the event, the teams were like vultures fighting for the best parts. Early in the process, I spotted two fire extinguishers that looked perfectly functional. I learned that day that many public buildings replace their fire equipment every decade for «prevention». Worst of all, many people just throw them with the garbage, while expensive metals such as brass is used in this object.

I sketched on a piece of paper a floor lamp inspired by one of Achille Castiglioni classic : the Arco lamp (edited by Flos). I’m fascinated by this great designer who also used industrial objects form tractors and bicycles in the design of his famous furniture.

I decided to dedicate this lamp to him, naming it «Achille le Grand»

He probably brought us luck because the lamp we created won first prize of the event, giving every single member of our team a full tool box and a DeWALT drill offered by FACOM. The high quality tools we used during the workshop.

I’m also very grateful that le FabShop sponsored a MakerBot Replicator during the event. A tool that helped us create custom parts very quickly. Le FabShop also printed the trophy live during the Lounge Share’s private viewing.

- Empty the Fire extinguishers.
The chances are that there still is products in the container. It is either liquid or powder. Both are messy, but mostly the powder one. Try not to breathe the fumes. I don't know if it's toxic, but it can't be good. Keep the pressure on the handle until there is nothing coming out of the tube... even air.

- Open the Fire extinguishers
You'll need a big claw and muscles. Unscrew the big nut closing the extremity under the handle.

- Clean the inside
There will still be powder or liquid. Remove everything you can.

You can cut the container in 3 parts
One at the height of the black plastic base (you'll need it for the small lamp)
Keep the plastic part intact. Remove it from the metal with a flat screwdriver.

Use sandpaper od a buffer to clean the cut in case you were a little messy... like me.

-Printed part #1
To adjust the socket with the container, I had to design a specific part. This part will depend of the type of fire extinguisher you'll be using. Mine had two screws, so I used this at my advantage, but you will most likely design your own part out of wood or plastic using simple tools. in case, I joined my STL file.

-Sand it
This part depend of your taste. If you want the natural colour, keep the part as it is. If you want to paint, you'll need to remove the stickers and the serigraphy from the surface so it doesn't show trough the added colour.

We had some steel and aluminium tubes. Approximately 3 cm diameter.
We used the steel one for the vertical and curved the aluminium one to hold the lampshade.

We bent a 2,5m long tube into a 1m radius with the help of Didier, our metal expert. Once again, follow your taste and make this design your own. If you want to try a bigger radius, go ahead, but don't forget that your lampshade is heavy.

-Second container
Make a hole in the centre of your second extinguisher's base. Stretch this hole so you have enough space to pass the steel tube.

-Second printed part
The steel tube needed an extra part to be alligned with the container. Once again, I printed it, but feel free to use standard tools. All you need is the diameter of your tube and the inside of the nut located on top of the extinguisher.

To hold all these last parts together, I found a plumber brass fillet that fitted perfectly inside my tube. Yes, I have a guardian angle. (Castiglioni himself?)
I fixed it with a little bit of supper glue.
The next step is like most floor lamp on the market. Slide the tube inside the base, trough the hole you made. Let the filet stick out and use a nut to tighten it. Make sure you leave enough space to pass a cable.

-Remove some more paint
While sanding the black nut from the extinguisher, we realized it was made of brass so we cleaned it completely using a steel brush.

-Switch On/Off
For the switch, we removed the guts from a water valve to clear the way.(remove the shiny steel marble inside)
Next, try to find a dimmer that fits in this hole and stick it to the axis you've just created. (work in progress)
To screw the switch on the vertical tube, I used the same trick than with the base, I glued brass filets inside the tube.

Optional, but gives a nice minimalist effect. Achille Castiglioni's leitmotiv was « where you could not do less » so I guess you could skip this step. Personally, I opted for mate black on the inside and gold inside the lampshade.

We used 4m of electric cable for this lamp and a Bakelite E27 socket. Since you need to wire everything, install the fiche at the very last moment. I suggest you use LED of fluorescent light bulbs since you have no air evacuation.

Remember the plastic part you removed from the base at the very beginning? It is time to reuse it if you wish. Just insert it over your lampshade. It should still fit perfectly.

To make this installation stable, you'll have to fill the base with something very heavy. Sand is not enough. I had to screw a thick circular steel plate to make mine secure. Somehow, I like how it looks on the lamp. On his Arco lamp, Castiglioni opted for a big marble block. Very Italian choice.

-Mini Achille
If you have any energy left, use the parts left to build something else. Mini Achille used parts from a broken lamp, 3D printing, and the top of a gas container for the shade.

Have fun!

Samuel N. Bernier

Epilog Challenge V

Participated in the
Epilog Challenge V

Instructables Green Design Contest

Participated in the
Instructables Green Design Contest

3D Printing Contest

Participated in the
3D Printing Contest